At first glance, it might seem odd for the Arizona Coyotes to take another forward, especially with the 7th overall pick. After all, they are loaded with young forward talent that the team has already accumulated over the past few years. With Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Christian Dvorak, Brendan Perlini, and Jordan Martinook all playing roles as key contributors already and with Dylan Strome, Clayton Keller, Christian Fischer, and Nick Merkley in the system as well. Do the Coyotes really need to add another forward?
Personally, I subscribe to the theory that teams should try and take the best player available in the draft. After all, sporting seasons are unpredictable, and none of us have any idea of what the team’s needs will be a few years down the line.
Also, the Coyotes could definitely use an infusion of talent at the forward position. The 2016-17 Coyotes were not a good offensive team by any measure, that much is obvious. The numbers below show that the Coyotes have a lot of room for improvement, and another forward talent cannot be out of the question for them.
- 27th in Goals Scored (191 goals, or 2.33 goals/game).
- 26th in Power-Play % (16.17%).
- T-26th in Power-Play Goals (38).
- 28th in Shots on Goal (They only had 8 more than the 30th place team).
- *27th in Fenwick For per 60 minutes (5-on-5, Score and Venue Adjusted).
- *26th in Corsi For per 60 minutes (5-on-5, Score and Venue Adjusted).
*Data pulled from naturalstattrick.com
In this particular draft, one of the best scoring talents the the Coyotes could look to pick is Finnish winger Eeli Tolvanen, who played with the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL this past season.
Eeli Tolvanen - Flash Stats
USHL Sioux City Musketeers - 114 Games - 52 Goals - 50 Assists - 102 Points - 26 PIM
Worlds U20 - 15 Games - 7 Goals - 9 Assists - 16 Points - 2 PIM
Eeli Tolvanen NHL Draft profile 2017 | SB Nation NHL Draft Match
2017 NHL Draft prospect Eeli Tolvanen is just so fun to watch.Posted by SB Nation NHL on Friday, June 2, 2017
The first thing to note with Tolvanen is his shot. He is regarded as one of the best shooters in this draft class, if not the absolute best. That fearsome shot helped him become incredibly productive in the USHL, combined with shooting volume, to lead the league in shots on goal (and had 41 more than the next player). He was also tied for third in goals and tied for eighth in total points for the regular season. Tolvanen’s elite shot generation could be a big boost to the Coyotes, as referenced to the table below.
Corey Pronman made this table at the end of November last year. When that table is updated for Tolvanen’s production this draft season, he still ends up at 4.73 shots on goal per game, ahead of both Kyle Connor and Brock Boeser (246 in 52 GP). A player who not only has a fearsome shot, but fires at a tremendous rate could be a major boost for the Coyotes.
Tolvanen’s incredible shooting volume also followed him to international play. He was 4th at this year’s WJC in SOG, only behind Jonathan Dahlen, Kirill Kaprizov, and Mathew Barzal. However, Tolvanen played one fewer game than all three and ended up being the tournament leader in shots per game. Tolvanen also tied for the team lead in goals and assists for Team Finland.
While Tolvanen’s shot is incredible on its own, he has shown playmaking ability as well. He is a good and willing passer with good hands and has solid hockey IQ, which is a characteristic I gravitate towards. Raw skills are terrific, but knowing how to apply those skills makes a player that much more threatening. Tolvanen combines his shot, skill, and hockey IQ to form one of the top wingers in this draft class.
The biggest knock on Tolvanen has been regarding his size. He is listed as 5’10 and 189lbs, which is small for the NHL standard. Along with the size concern is that he is not a great skater relative to his size. He is not slow by any means, but he is not the type of burner that is generally associated with a player of smaller stature. However, I believe that size is not a true “skill”, and the combination of his strengths makes him a worthy selection at 7th overall.
Tolvanen is not expected to produce right away for the team that drafts him. Currently, he is committed to Boston College for the 2017-18 season. Whether he leaves the NCAA after one year remains to be seen, but for the Coyotes, that should not be a problem. This is a team that is on the rise and can afford to be patient with the development of their players. The true “window” for the Coyotes is a few years down the line, and if he succeeds, Tolvanen absolutely looks to fit that timeline.
Tolvanen also makes sense for Arizona as a potential home-run selection. The best way for teams to add premium talent is through the draft, and that means utilizing premium picks on premium talent at premium positions. This is especially true for the Coyotes, who are more reliant on the draft as a source of talent than other teams as a budget club operating in a small market.
If Eeli Tolvanen is available at 7 when the Coyotes are on the clock, the team should strongly consider making him the selection.